Boswell: Sir, what is poetry?
Johnson: Why Sir, it is much easier to say what it is not. We all know what light is but it is not easy to tell what it is. [April 12th, 1776]
To that I would add Adrian Mitchell in 1964, in Poems:
Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people.
There’s an episode of the Maury Chaykin Nero Wolfe where Archie goes to a ‘poetry’ reading by the most geeky member of the ensemble. The room was in garish colours and the ‘poet’ was in a basket chair, the young people sitting crosslegged on cushions round about, listening to his guff.
In the background was ‘shock of the new’ type atonal sound and the ‘poet’ was holding forth about lickspittle something or other – discordant, angular. Archie Goodwin, no poet or thespian, was putting up with it for the sake of a female he had his eye on for a bit of nooky later.
The primary reason I’m no ‘intellectual’ is that I flatly rejected all of it very early on, ditto with the Philosophers, not as a Marquess of Queensberry with Wilde but as a rebel against all falsehood and postulating … and there is nothing more false nor postulating than ‘the arts’.
Nigel Planer did a series of Masterclasses and the joke was that he was serving it up to the very people who had given him the platform:
For your displeasure:
Back into the mists of time – in Form 3 [secondary], my first bad report was sent to my shocked parents:
James is inclined to treat the more serious aspects [of what we do] too flippantly.
All right, but one could argue that a certain scepticism about Wankery is essentially different to scepticism about what is important.
And so to the question – what is important?
I’d argue that a 30,000 strong march in Boston against free speech, urine-bomb attacking the 300 who managed to brave Antifa, plus the police, is not the sort of scepticism the classical scholars of yore had in mind those millennia ago.
I’d argue that that sort of scepticism is drifting into Hitler brownshirt, barbarian/savage, leftwing territory, that it is hardly a rebellion against Wankery not to mention being entirely bereft of humour.
What is important?
Why Sir/Ma’am, it is much easier to say what it is not. We all know what light is but it is not easy to tell what it is.